All these changes occurred slowly. Eventually, people began to select and plant seeds from the best producers, which led to larger fruits or better grains. Among the earliest domesticated plants were figs, wheat, barley, and rice from different parts of Asia. Potatoes and beans were domesticated in South America while squash and maize were grown in Central America.

Photo of a prehistoric settlement in a desert setting, with remnants of stonework.

The ruins of the Neolithic village of Jericho.

By the new Stone Age, people had learned to domesticate some of the animals they had once hunted. Domesticating wild animals would have taken time. Perhaps hunters rounded up and enclosed some wild animals rather than wait for them to return each year as they migrated. People either kept the animals in rough enclosures or herded them to good grasslands.

Only some wild animals could be domesticated. People then used these animals as they always had—for food or skins—as well as for other benefits, such as milk or eggs. A few animals were even used for pulling.

Dogs were probably the first animals people domesticated, perhaps as early as 20,000 years ago. They became guard dogs and companions to humans. About 10,000 years ago people in parts of Asia and North Africa domesticated goats, sheep, pigs, and cattle. Later, llamas and alpacas were domesticated in South America.

Dramatic Change with the Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution enabled people to become food producers for the first time. It led to a growth in population, which in turn led to more interaction among human communities. No greater change in the way people lived took place until the Industrial Revolution that began in the late 1700s.

During the Neolithic Revolution, people slowly relied more on the food they grew than on their hunting and gathering efforts. As they developed better seeds and produced better harvests, their numbers grew, and they settled into the first farming villages.

Photo of a cave drawing depicting impressions of human and animal forms.

Scientists study Neolithic cave art to understand early religious beliefs known as animism.

Establishing the Earliest Villages

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of Neolithic villages that reveal much about early farming people. The oldest Neolithic settlements consisted of a handful of huts. A Neolithic village that grew over time was Jericho(JEHR ih koh), located in the Jordan River valley in the Middle East.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments